Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to remove a storm window

OK, so remember how I said the storm window had to be removed from the outside? It's easy.

Step 1: put ladder on side of carriage house.

Step 2: climb up ladder until head is about a foot below the bottom of the window.

Step 3: freeze in sheer terror.

Step 3a: imagine the Latino neighbors looking at the stupid gringo on the ladder and laughing.

Step 3b: it doesn't help.

Step 3c: imagine the redneck neighbors looking at the stupid dandy on the ladder.

Step 3d: shut up, it's still not helping.

Step 4: after ten minutes, admit defeat. Go back inside the carriage house and figure out how to remove the storm window from the inside, standing on the floor as God intended.

See how it's held on with these strips? Remove those, and ease the window in through the frame.

Step 5: success.

Step 6: scrape old paint until it gets boring, then sit down to blog the experience, with a frosty, refreshing Coca-Cola from your own refrigerator.

I can only imagine that not getting scared on the ladder is a matter of practice. I used to be very wary on stepladders, but got used to that. It's not the height -- I can lean out the same window over the same precipice and laugh. It's the vivid mental image of how much it would hurt if the ladder, an implement which I fundamentally do not trust, would fall down.

Perhaps scaffolding is the answer. If it looked more stable, that would be good enough. But I have to figure out something; these eaves really need paint. I guess I could buy a lift truck or a cherry picker. I always wanted a cherry picker anyway. Those look fun. Too bad they cost way more than my house(s).

Hmm. Or not: Ebay lists a 300 lb rated lift platform with extending stabilizers for only $2300 buy-now price. That's pretty darned tempting. This house is really high.


  1. "Boom lift" is the keyword I want.

  2. Hee! Reminds me of those "How to Bathe A Cat" e-mails...

  3. Finally decided to delurk and post--you're making great progress.

    With the ladder, you're right that "practice makes comfortable." I was terrified the first few times I had to use a long ladder, and my halting hesitancy (and shaking legs) showed it. I got comfortable soon enough, actually within a couple weeks, but by then I'd learned the Three Major Points of ladder work.

    First, having the right ladder makes a big difference. You should only be in the position of having to stretch from the next-to-top rung of a ladder in an absolute emergency, or a unique situation; if you're having to do that just to work on a window, you need a longer ladder. A possibility is, if you bought the ladder recently, return it and get one that's two feet longer. Lowe's and Homie will accept returns even without receipt, as long as it's their product and not scarred up or stained, and give you store credit (which you use at the check out stand for most of the purchase price of the new, longer one).

    The second must for an extension ladder is footing. Unless you weigh less than 130#, and can rappel down the sides of your house off the shutters and/or trim using only your belt or a raingutter, you should take at least as much time setting the footing of the ladder as it will take you to climb it. Use your knowledge of physics and your comfort level to determine the angle of the ladder. Then make sure the two feet are on solid, level ground, or use something flat and solidly placed (wood scrap, stepping stone, etc.) to level the feet up. Assure that the feet are flat on their desired locations. I usually wiggle the ladder a bit after I get it into place, just to settle things a bit.

    Third, extend the ladder so that the tops of the rails are at or only slightly below the highest point where your hands will be as you're working. Get your tools and climb up there, find a few places (flat spots on structure or pockets) to stash things while you're working, and make sure you're in a comfortable spot, don't have to stretch awkwardly, etc. If you don't like the work position, climb down and move the ladder.

    One note on your (missing) downspouts. I notice they appear to be round. That tells me they were originally fabricated out of copper or tin, both of which indeed are prized by recycling thieves. If you check around your area, you should be able to find someone who makes retrofits to those, probably out of aluminum, maybe of galvanized sheet metal, in sections of a few feet. Retrofitting those to what's still there will be much, much cheaper than installing a new gutter and downspout system, and will look more natural on your vintage house.

  4. It's my dad's ladder, and extends just fine to where I need it -- and I set those feet really well, basically vacuum-welded onto the pavement of the alley out back. Rationally, I know the ladder's not going anywhere. But I literally could not force myself any further than about seven feet up.

    Maybe next time. I'm gratified to hear that it gets easier with exposure. But a boom lift would be fun, right? Later that day, walking the dog, I saw one driving around downtown; the city's. Now I know where they park it, in case I want to get dabble in some Grand Theft Boom Lift. (Kind of conspicuous, and its getaway speed leaves something to be desired, but I'd only have to drive it about five blocks.)

    As to downspouts -- as with everything else in this house, I have a veritable museum of downspout technology. Some of them are round, some the rectangular aluminum, there's some flexible black PVC -- none of it reaches the ground anywhere. It may well have been stolen or just destroyed years ago; the previous owner did a lot of good work, but didn't really comprehend the whole drainage issue and why it's important.

    I'm going to have to do a principled refit of all the guttering, really, when you get down to it. Sometime a few weeks from now.

  5. Ah -- on rereading your comment, I should note that the gutters are just plain not there in many places. That's why they'll need to be added. In some places, I have box gutters that have been repaired stupidly (I mean, by nailing tin on top of them and tarring them, obviously by somebody who had also never heard of box gutters, but who didn't have Google to help him out). Those might be salvageable, I don't know. But if not, putting a nice white gutter on it will be better than letting the house continue to melt.

  6. Sheesh! I didn't really pay attention to but the one picture where you showcased the truncated downspout. With your plethora of styles and materials, were it my place, I think I'd set a goal of replacing the whole shebang with the shiny new seamless aluminum sort, in white. Just make sure you go with the biggest downspouts (I don't know where you are, but assume it ain't Arizona). Also, if drainage away from the house is an issue, you can get PVC adapters that fit the rectangular downspouts and route the drainage into regular PVC SDR-35 drainage pipe, and thusly route the water away from the house and bring it to light downslope.

    As long as it's done before the next rainy season, you ought to be in good shape. And you may be able to make some money to finance the project by recycling the remaining gutters & downspouts.

  7. Yeah. If I can save the box gutters on the porch, that would be nicer. But if not, then not. We shall see; that's for a later date. Just not too late.

  8. I know a fellow who tried some Grand Theft County Forklift. It didn't end well for him.

  9. Bah! If I had wanted the voice of reason, I wouldn't have bought this house, now would I?

  10. With that voice, you'd be living it up in a cardboard box in the burbs.

    I considered my last house to be relatively new--it was built in 1954.